Sheffield Shield 2023-24 – Sam Whiteman: We have to be one of the great Western Australia teams

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Captain Sam Whiteman said Western Australia deserved to be rated among the state’s greatest ever teams after securing a hat-trick of Sheffield Shield titles with a demolition of Tasmania at the WACA.

WA produced an emphatic 377-run victory in a one-sided final and sealed the title in remarkable circumstances late on day four. The result was never in doubt, with Tasmania needing to chase down a record 538 runs to claim the title, but WA punctuated their status as Australia’s powerhouse of domestic cricket by bowling out the Tigers in a rollicking 41 overs.

WA sealed their 18th Shield title just 10 minutes before stumps in fitting fashion when Joel Paris took a blinder of a catch at gully to trigger scenes of jubilation on the field and in the terraces.

“We were on a shot clock, we were really hoping to finish it tonight,” Whiteman told reporters. “That final catch and that celebration… was just an amazing feeling that I’ll never forget.”

Even though they completely dominated the final, WA were tested to the limits in a season of adversity. Frontline quicks Jhye Richardson, Lance Morris and Matt Kelly only played five Shield matches between them.

Having rejuvenated his red-ball career with a century in last season’s final, Ashton Turner missed most of the season after knee surgery in December, while Cameron Green played only two matches. Mitchell Marsh did not play domestic cricket at all this season given his heavy international workload across the formats.

WA had to rely on their depth of talent with their fringe players stepping up brilliantly in the final. Debutant Cooper Connolly made a swashbuckling 90 in WA’s first innings, while D’Arcy Short scored 50 and 38 having not opened at the first-class level since late 2019.

He replaced Cameron Bancroft, arguably WA’s best batter and the leading Shield run scorer over the past couple of seasons. Bancorft had been ruled out ahead of the final after suffering concussion in a bike accident last weekend.

While quick Cameron Gannon, who has been mostly on the fringes during his long career, bowled superly in the backend of the season culminating in a five-wicket haul to tear through Tasmania in their second innings.

“The way someone stood up when we really needed to throughout the year, it’s been amazing,” said Whiteman, who was player-of-the-final with his opening day century after WA were sent in to bat on a green-tinged surface. “The most pleasing part of it is that it’s often someone else who stepped up.

“We’ve had a tough slog this year with injuries and Australian selection. I’m just incredibly proud of the group.”

Whiteman, now a three-time Shield-winning captain, believed the latest triumph was WA’s sweetest. Adding to their legacy, they became the first team to win three titles in a row in the Shield and Marsh Cup concurrently.

WA won their first hat-trick of Shield titles since their legendary team of the late 1980s, which boasted Terry Alderman, Tom Moody and Geoff Marsh.

“Personally, it is [the sweetest title],” Whiteman said. “It has to be one of the great WA Shield teams….and I think with the one-day stuff we have to be one of the great WA teams. Hopefully there’s some more success down the line.”

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